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Middleborough selectman’s campaign finance violation involving pot company draws GOP fire

Allin Frawley.
Allin Frawley.Craig F. Walker/The Boston Globe/Globe Staff

A Middleborough selectman has agreed to pay $2,000 to the state to resolve a slew of campaign finance violations, including inaccurately reporting donations received from a director of a marijuana business seeking approval to open in the town.

Allin Frawley’s campaign for state representative reported in June 2018 that it had received four donors’ contributions of $1,000 each, the state limit on donations per person. But the true source of the money was just two people, Tim and Lilli Shaw, according to Frawley’s Dec. 23 agreement with the Office of Campaign and Political Finance.

Tim Shaw is a director of ARL Healthcare, which operates Panacea Wellness, a medical marijuana dispensary that opened last month and aims to become a recreational pot store, state records show.

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The state’s Republican Party blasted the agreement Monday, alleging the fine for Frawley, a Democrat who lost the November 2018 election, was a “mere slap on the wrist” for election-polluting “corruption.”

The GOP noted that the state Office of Campaign and Political Finance did not disclose in the agreement, or in a news release about the case, that at the time of the donations the Shaws were seeking approval from the board of selectmen to open a marijuana business.

The party compared the donations to a federal bribery indictment accusing the former mayor of Fall River, Jasiel Correia II, of pressuring marijuana companies for $575,000 in bribes in exchange for city approval. Correia, whose trial is set for May, has pleaded not guilty.

“We’ve seen the US Department of Justice already expose this same pattern of corruption in Fall River, yet our own Massachusetts corruption watchdogs like [Attorney General Maura Healey] are always nowhere to be found,” Jim Lyons, the party chairman, said in a statement, accusing Healey of not wanting to investigate “her fellow Democrats for corruption.”

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“If I had to connect the dots by myself to find out what’s going on in Middleborough, you have to wonder how much more of this is happening in the rest of the state,” Lyons added.

After the Fall River indictment, US Attorney Andrew Lelling’s office convened a grand jury to investigate local government approvals of marijuana businesses and subpoenaed records from towns and cities across the state.

The Office of Campaign and Political Finance, an independent state agency, declined to comment on why it didn’t disclose the Shaws’ marijuana business ties in its public documents. The office said it closed the Frawley matter without referring it to the attorney general’s office for criminal investigation. Healey’s office declined to comment.

Frawley said in an interview Monday that the GOP’s assertions were ridiculous. He said the donations didn’t influence his stance on the dispensary, which he had long supported because it would provide revenue for the town and medicine for his constituents.

“The idea I was taking marijuana corruption money is ludicrous and nothing but a cheap hit piece by the GOP,” Frawley said.

Frawley said he believed at the time that the donations had come from four individuals and complied with state contribution limits, but state officials “didn’t see it that way.”

“If I had known they were from two people instead of four, I wouldn’t have taken the donation,” Frawley said, adding he did not solicit the donation.

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According to the agreement, Frawley’s campaign manager accepted the $4,000 check from the Shaw family. The check came from Tim and Lilli Shaw’s bank account and included a note that the money should be reported as coming from four Shaw family members. The campaign manager told Frawley to report the contribution from four people, “even though Tim and Lilli Shaw were the source of all the funds,” the agreement said.

A call to Panacea Wellness seeking comment from the Shaws was not returned.

In the agreement, Frawley said he was “truly sorry” for the mistakes “during a bustling and hectic campaign.” He vowed to correct the errors and ensure none would recur in the future.

Frawley said the board of selectmen approved the medical dispensary in 2015, far before the June 2018 donations. But the donations came when Panacea was seeking a contract with the town, called a host-community agreement, required to sell recreational marijuana.

The Enterprise newspaper reported that Frawley spoke in favor of Shaw’s company moving forward with contract negotiations at a select board meeting June 11, 2018. Three days later, Frawley’s campaign reported receiving the Shaw donations, records show.

Frawley’s other infractions, according to state officials, included not disclosing more than 20 contributions totaling $5,723, not reporting nearly 40 expenditures worth $4,944, and not maintaining detailed accounts, vouchers, and receipts, as required by law. In addition to his personal fine, Frawley must file amended reports with the state by the end of next week.

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Naomi Martin can be reached at naomi.martin@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter at @NaomiMartin.